When Can Low Back Pain be the sign of a Heart Attack

Page content

Heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is becoming very common in today’s world. Back pain too is a common condition, but relatively harmless. A lot of information abut heart attacks mention back pain as a symptom, but do we consider all back pain to be heart attacks? Find out if your low back pain can be a sign of a heart attack.

Heart Attack Vs Angina

Heart attack occurs when heart muscle dies due to the lack of oxygen supply. This can occur because of any previous damage in the arteries which reduces the blood supply to the muscles of the heart.

Angina pectoris is the pain which a person feels when there is a lack of oxygen supply to the blood vessels of the heart. It is also associated with many other symptoms. Some people have frequent angina.

Not all angina is a heart attack. Angina is a symptom of heart disease, and a sign which tells us that we need to start treatment. In heart attack, a severe form of angina is seen, and it needs to be treated in a hospital immediately.

Symptoms of Angina

- Chest discomfort or heaviness, also described as a tightness, pain

- It radiates to the neck, jaw, or arms, shoulder and even the back

- It is caused by stress or physical exertion

- Relieved by rest

- Also associated with breathlessness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, light headedness and palpitations

- Some patients may also have stomach pain as a sign of angina

The Difference Between a Heart Attack Back Pain and a Muscular Back Pain

Muscular back pain is usually preceded by a physical activity which strained your back muscles, like lifting something heavy, sitting in a bad position for a long time, or bending for a long time. A heart attack or angina can also be preceded by a physical activity, but these are usually more strenuous activities like walking fast, running, or climbing stairs.

A back pain caused by heart disease will be relieved almost immediately by rest. Muscular back pain usually needs at least half an hour of rest to be relieved, whereas a back pain caused by heart disease will be relieved by about 5 to 10 minutes of rest.

A pure muscular back pain will not be accompanied by palpitations, breathlessness or chest tightness. Back pain caused by heart disease might be associated with these symptoms.

When Can Low Back Pain Be the Sign of a Heart Attack

Low back pain can be a sign of a heart attack if it is accompanied by other angina symptoms like:

  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Light headedness
  • Palpitations

You Might Need to Worry About Your Heart If…

If you are diabetic (people with diabetes are more prone to having atypical symptoms of heart attack like back pain)

If you have high cholestrol levels

If you are above 65

If you have hypertension

If you are a smoker

If you have had previous episodes of angina or heart attack

If you have a family history of heart attack

If you are of an unhealthy weight and have other risk factors

If you have any of the above risk factors, consider talking with your doctor about heart disease prevention. You may also need to schedule regular checkups. If you have any of the other symptoms of angina with back pain, it is recommended that you visit a doctor.

Prevention, Prevention, Prevention

Taking care of your health can help reduce the risk of heart disease, and many other diseases too. Modify your lifestyle if necessary, make healthy food choices, and get plenty of exercise. Visit your doctor regularly to keep track of how you are doing.

This article is for your education only, it cannot replace a physical examination and consultation with your doctor.


Washington Manual of Medical Theraputics, Cooper, Daniel H.; Krainik, Andrew J.; Lubner, Sam J.; Reno, Hilary E.; Micek, Scott